Family FAQs

Can my spouse just move out and stop paying any of our bills?

They may think they can, but they are still responsible in most cases. Nobody can legally abandon. If this happens, there are things you can do. For example, you can go to court to ask for emergency support, depending upon your financial circumstances.

Can you represent both me and my spouse in our family law case?

In family law cases, we never represent both spouses; this would create a permanent conflict of interest. Although some States allow an attorney to obtain a written waiver of conflict, this is not permissible in Virginia and, frankly, we agree with that restriction as it is too easily the case that one spouse may later claim duress or coercion to get out of any agreement he or she signs, claiming that the attorney over-reached or was one-sided in his or her advice.

Do you provide mediation services?

Patricia E. Tichenor can serve as a mediator; however, she is a neutral in that instance and can only help each side to work towards an agreement. Once that agreement is reached, it is up to one or both of the spouses to meet with their own, separate and independent attorney to review the mediated agreement and decide to sign it. A mediator in Virginia cannot complete your divorce for you; so, at least one spouse must always obtain legal counsel to complete the divorce after a mediated agreement is signed. We also provide representation during mediation for spouses who want to have an advocate on their side guiding them on their rights during the mediation process. A mediator, as a neutral, is there to facilitate discussion between spouses and not provide legal advice; so, it is often important to secure your own attorney to review any agreement reached in mediation before you sign it. All this being said, our law office highly recommends mediation and often uses it to help clients resolve even the most difficult of legal matters. Virginia has some of the finest retired Circuit Court Judges available to assist in that process. We believe court should be the last resort, but we also know that an opposing party’s expectations can often be so far from reality that mediation will not be productive, leaving court the only option to reach a fair resolution.

Does separation mean one of us has to leave the house?

No. Separation is a mental state and an action to live like a spouse’s roommate, ceasing to hold yourself out to friends or family as a “married couple,” and putting them and your spouse on notice of your intentions and that those intentions are permanent in nature. You need only move into a separate bedroom, stop, if possible, sharing a bathroom, stop eating together or having your spouse do your laundry, stop engaging in conduct or behavior that would lead others to believe your marriage is “fine” or that you have “reconciled” since a stated decision to separate.

How quickly can you get me a divorce?

In divorce issues you can only control your own timeline; you can’t control the other side. We also have to take into consideration the legal timelines as set forth by the Commonwealth of Virginia, especially in cases where children are involved. Unless there is a fault ground, like adultery, if you have minor children, you will need to be separated for a period in excess of one year to obtain a divorce, even if you sign a settlement agreement. If you have no minor children and are able to sign a settlement agreement, the separation period required by statute is six months and one day.